Lock Jaw and Night Vision, Heed the Farning!

Definition: Farning. Using fear to impress danger upon someone. ex: Don’t eat that or you’ll die. My mom was the master of this. Still is actually. She’s very…mmm…dramatic is a good word. I say this with affection. Probably.

I bring this up because many of her farnings had a definite effect on me. I guess this is a good thing when your intent is to keep a child from potential harm, but what if it continues well into adulthood? Here’s a sampling of my nut farm childhood:

1. Don’t talk on the phone during a storm or lightning will strike the house, go through the phone line and fry you like an egg. (even though this is only relevant if you’re on an “old fashioned” plug-in phone, I still won’t talk on my cell phone during storms)

2. If you get scraped by a rusty nail and you’re behind on tetanus you’ll get lock jaw and night vision. (Can you imagine the visual I had of this as a six year old? Although I’m intrigued by the idea of night vision, I’m still horrified by lock-jaw, cuz LOCK JAW)

3. Check all canned foods for botulism. If you eat something with botulism you’ll die within 5 minutes. (I still obsessively check cans for the “pop” and will not use one if it has even a tiny dent. I was so paranoid about this, I wouldn’t even eat canned food unless someone else was home until I was well into my twenties)

4. If you see a van driving next to you, RUN! Kidnappers drive vans and grab little kids and you’ll never see your family again. (um…no joke, I’m still scared shitless of vans. In fact, I’m quite skittish and always feel vulnerable when out in the open. My BFF finds this highly amusing)

5. Don’t take hot showers if you’re on your period, you could pass out, and could hit your head on the tile and drown. (*blank stare*) (To be honest, I think I heard this one from Girl Scouts, but my mom added the fear element of a head injury and possible drowning because merely “passing out” wasn’t enough of a warning. Obviously)

Now, maybe I was a super sensitive kid who took warnings very literal and that’s why they affected me so profoundly. OR, maybe the farnings were a bit too…hmm….harsh given my age at the time and could have been phrased more gently. *shrug* But it does give me pause when considering how to warn my own kids. For instance:

I see my 9yo playing in the street the other day. My warning, “get out of the street, you could get hit by a car” is no longer making an impact. I can tell. Cuz he’s still in the street. Herein lies my dilemma. How far do I go to impress upon him the gravity of the situation while not causing him to cower in the house the rest of his life cuz of mommy’s colorful description of brain matter on the asphalt?

When my 6yo is scared/mad he’ll run out of the house and hide under one of our cars (charming, btw). A few Saturdays ago he was upset he was being left with a sitter and did just that. The sitter was already in the house. The hubs and I had somewhere to be. I stomped walked patiently to the car. He was wedged all the way in the middle and refused to budge. What did I do? I reverted to what I knew.

“Hurry and get out from under there! There’s a storm coming, you can’t be near large metal objects when there’s lightning!” (FYI, there really were *storm clouds.)

Awful, or not? I mean, that’s true about lightning, everyone knows that. And it worked! We got him inside and made our movie on time. Yes, he’s terrified of lightning now, but he already sort of was so I still see this as a WIN.

The thing is, I know my mom’s heart was in the right place. I get it. I bring it up all in fun, I mean, if it wasn’t for her farnings, how would I know to go through my kid’s Halloween candy for signs of foul play. You know, cuz Mom warned me how people stick needles in Tootsie Rolls to inject cyanide, and open Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups to insert razor blades and then replace the wrappers.


*by storm clouds I mean some grey clouds on the horizon. And by grey clouds on the horizon I mean an airplane. Shut up. That plane was ominous as shit.

So how far is too far? Was I just overly sensitive as a kid? Do you use fear to keep your kids safe? Did your parents ever give you farnings that still stick with you? I LOVE hearing from you!


  1. I do this to my nieces and nephews but I amp up the drama so much, hopefully they know it’s only tongue in cheek. Otherwise they’ll be adults who are afraid to get out of bed in the middle of the night because the floor is lava cleverly disguised as carpet…

    Also– I would scratch myself with a rusty nail like NOW if it would give me night vision. I could accomplish a lot of things with such a super power…


    1. haha! I know, right? I mean….seriously. What else? What if we ate bad bologna and gained the power of invisibility? Or passed out in the shower and woke up with the ability to time travel? THE POSSIBILITES ARE ENDLESS


  2. Not only do I not talk on the phone during a storm, I won’t do anything that involves water. Showering, washing dishes, going to the bathroom. No way. The chance of electrocution is too great.
    Dented cans make me very nervous, and if there’s no POP when I open a jar, the jar goes straight to the trash can.
    I don’t find you to be overly sensitive at all. 🙂


    1. I had to read that twice! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to tell my BFF and say, SEE? SEE?

      She’s either going to respond, “Hmm, maybe I make fun of you too much.” or she’s going to say, “Aww, Beth, you found someone as paranoid as you.” Either way,



  3. I never park next to a van. Period. Especially if it has no windows or those weird curtains. I rarely even buy canned food. My mom used things like…don’t pull the emergency break, or the car will explode. EXPLODE!!! This said just before leaving me in the car so that she could go purchase cigarettes which might actually kill her. And the halloween thing…not only did we have to check every piece of candy, my mother convinced me that Satan worshipers were specifically looking for fair skinned blonde virgins to SACRIFICE!

    I do, however tell my 6yo don’t do (insert almost anything), or you’ll die at least twice a week. It’s necessary. So I guess i can relate. A little. 😉


    1. lololol….I’m dying..lololol!!!! Why would the car explode??? OMG that’s so funny I’m seriously crying! And oh Gawd the serial killer curtains in vans are the worst! And you, SPECIFICALLY, were hunted for sacrifice. YES. perfect. How do you even leave the house nowadays? Seriously?


  4. that really brings back memories, both being told these things and telling these things to my kids or wife, or whoever. I was always scared of hot showers once a month…..


  5. I stay away from lone trees in storms, cos that’s common sense. Cars are probably fine. I don’t turn things off in storms.

    I won’t leave the washing machine on when I leave the house, but only cos I don’t want the offchance of mess.

    I think I’ve heard of botulism but I eat what smells/tastes good.

    I park next to vans because I have a mallet in my glove box.

    I jog through the common at night, alone, partly because I’m dumb, partly because I’m invincible, and partly because I’m probably the wrong sex for the rent boys to bother with.

    And you, my dear, are DELICIOUSLY susceptible.

    That’s gonna be fun…. *cackle*


  6. Hahaha! Deliciously susceptible because I’m a fair skinned, blonde virgin? (shut up. I could be a virgin) Or am I appealing to attackers because I look helpless, confused, and, therefore, vulnerable? All of the above? *giggles*

    You jog. At night. Alone. areyoucrazylizzi???? I won’t even walk my dog alone at night here in my safe little Pleasantville bubble! But that’s because there are a shitload of vans in Pleasantville…..why, oh why, do vans drive so s-l-o-w *shiver*


    1. All of the above. Added to which, you’re clearly pretty gullible 😉

      Um YEAH! Cos there are streetlights, yaknow? And I can punch real hard and have no problem with biting when I’m in a temper.

      And as a van driver, I take exception to the stereotype.

      Dyanne likes my van…she even asked for candy and a puppy to be put in it…


      1. Have no doubt, I am gullible as hell.

        I can punch, too, but in a fright situation I would probably just end up in the fetal position in a puddle of my own urine. Actually, that might work…..

        Your van should be offended, not you. And I haven’t seen YOUR van. Maybe it’s not freaky. Maybe it’s a “safe” van like a VW. I LOVE those. Have a photo? I’ll be the judge….


  7. LOL! This brought back memories of my mom and my great aunts saying some of these same things! Some of them are still stuck with me even though I know better.

    So, women should only take cold showers when that time of month hits? Brrrrrr….


  8. Vans freak me out too. Our drummer has a white van with tinted windows that we affectionately call “the rape van” and needless to say, we tease him mercilessly about it. I stepped on a rusty nail at Girl Scout camp and did not get lock jaw (immediately got the tetanus shot) but the night vision would’ve been cool as hell.


  9. Oh my gosh, this made me laugh!

    I had so many farnings, and they were all from my grandma. The worst one was when she told me I needed to stay away from moose, or else they’d trample me, kill me, or gouge me with their antlers. I was 4-5 at the time, and had a deadly fear of moose ever since then. Seriously. To this day, I can’t see one (in person) without a flash of fear.

    So many farnings! Love it!


    1. haha! that’s a good one. Doesn’t it sound weird to not have a better plural version of moose? I always want to say/write meese or moosen. ANYway, very funny farning from your grandmother. Thanks for sharing! glad I’m not the only one!


  10. You know of Reagan??? I was going to reference him but no one ever knows who I’m talking about! Not only to I love him (one of my all time favorite comics and people) but I worked with him for 6 years! Greatest guy ever. And his brother. I worked at the Addison improv. In my twenties. Oh the stories I could tell….


  11. No dented cans….EVER! No talking on the phone or showering in a thunderstorm…EVER! I hate vans and will never park next to one….especially those nondescript white ones (don’t ask me why). How about this one: “If you keep making that face, one of these days it will freeze that way.” Yeah, we may have the same mother…hmmmm. But I do it to my kids and don’t really think twice about it. I figure if that’s the only way I screw them up, I’m ahead of the game!


  12. Came to you from Inion N Mathair… Love the word ‘farning’… so much better than ‘warning’. Makes one think of frowning and foul play. All I can say is, if it keeps ’em safe… Give them something to write about oneday 😉


  13. I am afraid of thunderstorms, there I’ve admitted at my age (late 50’s) I am afraid of thunderstorms. Why? Because one time when my mother was bathing me there was some lightning. My mother snatched me out of the tub with soap in my hair & eyes, wrapped me in a towel & got out of the bathroom in a big hurry. Why- because if you are wet or in the bath when lightning strikes you could get electrocuted! I’m still afraid of thunderstorms!


    1. Well, I’m honored you’ve admitted right here on my blog! whoot! 🙂
      Yes, that’s the sort of thing that just sticks with ya, right? This is why my 6yo will probably always be afraid of them now…cuz of what I said to get him out from under my car. well, whatdoyado…..


  14. Haha! Your mom sounds a lot like me. I have thoroughly traumatized my daughter with my farnings. Serves her right for asking why over and over until I tell her the terrible, graphic truth 😉


  15. I remember my mom using all of those except the one about taking a hot shower while enjoying that time of the month.

    Some of her other ones: Stay out of the tall grass, there could be snakes in there! (We lived in Alaska – there are NO snakes in Alaska. Bears, yes. Snakes, no.)

    “Don’t make ugly faces at me, your face could stay that way.” I always hoped it would so I didn’t have to contort my face all the time to piss her off. 😉


    1. YES! I heard the one about making faces, too! I think my brother was scared of that! haha! I never heard anything about not walking in tall grass. You’d think I would growing up in Texas!


  16. Ah, the joys of neuroses! My 19-year-old daughter rang me on my mobile at 1.30 am last Thursday because she had had a missed call from a withheld number and assumed it meant I had died!


  17. this was hilarious and yes, I too was told some weird stuff which turned from facts to farce when I developed fear from it…lol

    If a cat crosses your path…you will have a bad day. Guess what I have neighbors who have cats as pets…I had to come out of it to survive…lol


  18. I think we all just try to do whatever works for our particular children. I used to pretend the bus driver was calling to try to wake my oldest up for school. I never imagined most of the stuff I would resort to in order to keep some semblance of control over a house with kids.


  19. You did it!!! And I enjoyed it just as much this time. I’m pretty sure my mom would tell me that I should never touch a snake in my bathroom or I might die.And why doesn’t my picture show up? I don’t even like it, but I like it better than a blank something.


  20. Absolutely accurate. I was terrified of adults as a child (not only because my father was a terrifying adult) because my father had me convinced that every adult was a potential kidnapper/rapist/pervert.
    No wonder I’m so trusting and outgoing.


  21. I don’t have to be really dramatic with my 5, cause she is SUCH a chicken shit. Seriously. I just say, there might be spiders on anything/anywhere I don’t want her to go, and she’s done.


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